Like abounding adolescent atramentous girls who were subjected to the brainy messaging that accomplished us we should backbiting our white peers’ cottony beeline locks, I grew up accepting a love-hate accord with my acclimatized hair.
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By the age of five, I was already able-bodied acclimatized to actuality sat bottomward in a armchair abutting to the stove and accepting my blubbery locks raked and “pressed” with a straightening comb. I bethink how afraid I acquainted as my accessory apprenticed bottomward adamantine on my roots, alive abounding able-bodied that one tiny blooper of her duke could advance to a abiding bake mark on my face, ear or neck.
In aerial school, I began application actinic articles that affirmed to relax my roots and accord me the flowing, agleam beard that rivaled the white women I saw in alluring absterge ads. But aback I started college, I faced a accomplished new set of pressures: I abutting atramentous apprentice organizations area chemically candy beard was apparent as a bequest to the era of white suppression. In adjustment to be a accustomed progressive, you had to embrace your acclimatized hair.
I apperceive my adventure isn’t all that unique. A February 2017 abstraction begin that atramentous women feel added all-overs about their beard and are alert as acceptable in allegory to white women to feel burden to align it in their workplace. And the abstraction begin that abounding bodies “show absolute bent adjoin atramentous women’s textured hair.”
As continued as atramentous women accept existed in America, we accept been put bottomward for our bark color, our bodies and our acclimatized hair. In the 18th Century, British colonists accounted African beard as afterpiece to sheep absolute than animal hair, ambience the antecedent that white beard is bigger — or “good,” a racially answerable angle in and of itself. Afterwards the capitalism of slavery, abounding atramentous Americans approved to align their beard to fit in. Madame C.J. Walker, the aboriginal atramentous changeable millionaire, fabricated her affluence affairs articles meant to align atramentous beard as a way to admonition atramentous women get advanced in association by applicable in aesthetically.
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There’s no against the actuality that antipathy for atramentous beard persists today. In 2015, Appearance Police host Giuliana Rancic said that the dreadlocks Zendaya rocked at the Oscars charge accept smelled of “patchouli” and “weed.” Earlier this year, aback Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters of California criticized President Donald Trump’s policies, above Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said that he wasn’t alert to her because he was instead “looking at the James Brown wig.” Alike football amateur Colin Kaepernick, who banned to angle for the civic canticle afore amateur to beef the abuse of bodies of blush in the United States, faced criticism for his afro: adolescent amateur Michael Vick said aftermost ages that Kaepernick “cut his hair” and “try to be presentable” if he wants to get active with addition NFL squad.
But the abhorrence of atramentous beard goes above apprenticed comments. In fact, all-embracing acclimatized beard can advance some women and men to lose their jobs or face abuse at school. In March 2014, the U.S. Army issued a new action that banned acceptable atramentous hairstyles, including cornrows, twists and dreadlocks. The regulations alike declared these styles “unkempt” and “matted.” Afterwards months of backfire and a letter from the Congressional Atramentous Caucus, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel advised and afterwards formed aback the policy.
In April of this year, administrators at a aerial academy in Massachusetts reprimanded and threatened to append 16-year-old accompanying sisters Mya and Deanna Cook for accepting braided beard extensions. The academy banned extensions, calling the hairstyle “distracting.” The academy afterwards abeyant its dress cipher afterwards accuse of discrimination, according to NPR. A ages later, 17-year-old Jenesis Johnson declared that a academy ambassador told her that she couldn’t abrasion her beard in an afro in academy because it was “extreme and chichi and out of control.” Aftermost year, a academy in Kentucky attempted to ban dreadlocks, cornrows and twists — but eventually antipodal advance afterwards abounding alleged the action racist. Research shows that policing adolescent atramentous girls — and their hair— can accept adverse after-effects and reinforce abrogating stereotypes. As Dorinda J. Carter, an abettor administrator of disinterestedness beat initiatives at Michigan State University, said to NPR, “What does a chaplet accept to do with acquirements and success?”
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White women aren’t punished or marginalized because of how they abrasion their hair. Atramentous women and men shouldn’t be penalized either. We shouldn’t accept to adapt contest or gatherings to acquisition acceptance. We shouldn’t accept to cut our beard to be accustomed in the White House, the schoolhouse, the football acreage or the accumulated boardroom.
As addition who has survived the rigors of Harvard Law School, the accent that comes with actuality a litigator for a Wall Street law close and the bound burden of alive as TV acknowledged analyst and host, I apperceive from claimed acquaintance that the way you abrasion your beard has annihilation to do with your success.
We shouldn’t feel accountable to accommodate to a admonishment accepted that mandates we abolish our cultural roots and identity. Instead, we should apprehend and appeal to be advised by our achievement and the backbone of our ideas.
While the apple hasn’t bent up to yet, we shouldn’t delay for ancient — and damaging — stereotypes to go out of fashion. My advice? Be accurate to yourself. If you appetite to action a ten-inch afro, braids, frontlaced weaves or custom wigs, do so proudly. You’re not authentic by the admeasurement or arrangement of your hair, but rather your charge to excellence.
Areva Martin, Esq. is a Los Angeles-based attorney.
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